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Meet the 2014 Mountain West GEM Awards winners prides itself on recognizing the accomplishments of nurses of excellence at its GEM (Giving Excellence Meaning) award programs. Held in cities throughout the U.S., these celebrations honor exceptional nurses from all specialties and practice settings, and each culminates in the naming of six regional winners in six categories. The regional winners move on to compete in the GEM national nurse of the year program.

“Our nursing excellence GEM Awards program shines brightly once again as we salute our 2014 regional winners,” said Eileen Williamson, RN, MSN, senior vice president and chief nurse executive. “Nominated and selected by their colleagues, they truly epitomize nursing at its best. We are honored to present them with our prestigious GEM awards and privileged to recognize them publicly for their many contributions to nursing and healthcare.”

This year’s regional GEM program was held June 20 at the Wild Horse Pass Resort and Casino in Chandler, Ariz. is pleased to introduce you to the 2014 GEM Mountain West region
award winners.


Maria Quimba, RN

Maria Quimba, RN, MA, MBA, MSN
Assistant dean, professional studies
Grand Canyon University, Phoenix

Quimba said it didn’t really sink in at first when her name was announced as winner of the 2014 GEM award in the Advancing and Leading the Profession category. “But then everyone at my table jumped to their feet and began to scream,” she said. “Then I knew that I must have won; I was ecstatic.”

Quimba oversees the strategic growth and development of professional studies for more than 6,200 students in 27 states for Grand Canyon University’s College of Nursing and Health Care Professions. She was acknowledged by her nominator, the dean for her “hard driving and determined nature” that helped forge critical partnerships with influential healthcare groups throughout the country, including Banner Health, which was persuaded to bring GCUs nursing program to its hospitals.

An administrator at Banner praised Quimba’s approach to advancing nursing “that is rooted in creating robust programs that empower nurses to seize control of their careers and deliver the best care possible to patients,“ said the nominator..

Quimba has taken many students under her wing, leaving an indelible mark on future healthcare leaders, the nominator said. This was evident the night of the GEM awards, when Quimba was approached by one of her former students who congratulated her on the nomination.

“It had been years since she graduated from GCU but seeing her that evening reminded me of why I entered academia — to help the next generation of nurses,” said Quimba. “Seeing her was validation that we do make a difference in the classroom.”

Quimba is also known for her compassionate and benevolent nature, as evidenced in the volunteer work she does in her free time. She works with the elderly through the Loretto Sisters, providing wellness checks and primary care. She also helps feed the homeless and serves women who are victims of domestic violence or human trafficking. At GCU, she led a group of students to rural Mexico to provide home health visits.

Quimba says what she loves best about being a nurse and an educator is the opportunity “to empower people, be it in the classroom, in the boardroom, or at the bedside, we’re able to give people hope.” What makes her the proudest are “the moments when our students become our colleagues and take what they have learned from us to serve others. It’s like the gift that keeps paying itself forward.”

Looking to the future, Quimba hopes to build programs that provide even greater access to education and support for novice teachers. “In order for us to continue to have a strong workforce, we must invest in the development and and support of future nurse educators,” she said.


Mario Lluria RN

Mario Lluria RN BSN CWOCN
Wound, ostomy, continence nurse
The University of Arizona Medical Center, Tucson

When Lluria found out he was a finalist for the Clinical Nursing, Inpatient GEM award, he said he found the news truly unbelievable that he was selected “among the great number of talented and deserving nurses in the Mountain region.” And later, when Lluria heard his name announced as the winner in his category at the 2014 GEM Awards gala, he said he was shocked and breathless to the point he could not move.“‘How could I win? These other outstanding nurses deserve this award, more than I do,’” Lluria said he thought to himself.

Winning the GEM award should not have been so surprising to the former engineering student, who decided to alter his career track after serving in the military, where he was influenced by the work of the armed forces nurses. Lluria considers becoming a certified wound ostomy continence nurse as one of his proudest accomplishments. He leads the skin care team at University of Arizona Medical Center, following all patients with wounds and ostomies and providing staff education. His work at UAMC has earned him the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses and the rank as one of Tucson’s Fabulous
Fifty Nurses.

Lluria’s nominator, a clinical nurse specialist, called Lluria a “fire starter” who has implemented many innovative wound and ostomy practices at UAMC. He organized a wound and ostomy conference for nursing staff and has published and presented numerous articles on burns, wounds and incontinence.

His nominator also praised him for his “kindness and tender loving care.” She cited all of the grateful patients he has educated and supported, especially those he helps adjust to new ostomies. His attentive and expert care has led to significant improvements in patient outcomes, including higher patient satisfaction, decreased skin breakdown, and increased ostomy bag wear time.

When asked what he loves best about being a nurse, Lluria says it’s “the ability to touch and make a difference, if even a small difference, in a patient’s life.” His future goal is to help with the establishment of a full service burn center at UAMC to serve the Tucson area.

When Lluria came up to the stage the night of the GEM celebration to receive his award, he started his acceptance speech by thanking all of the talented people he works with every day. He closed by acknowledging his wife, who also is an RN, saying, “She told me nursing was probably not the right career for me. Well, it looks like I’m doing OK.”


Heather Bachman, RN

Heather Bachman, RN, MSN, PCCN
Clinical educator, Tucson (Ariz.) Medical Center

“I love being a nurse because every day is different,” said Bachman, who is responsible for educating and training staff on the cardiac telemetry unit, the cardiac catheter lab, the GI lab, the critical care unit and the cardiac step down unit at Tucson Medical Center. “In my educator role there is such diversity and it allows me to collaborate with so many people who do great work.”

She said her goals are to impart information that makes all staff better at what they do, and to be there to provide support.

Bachman also takes the lead on several organization-wide initiatives, including fall reduction, the geriatric steering committee and the professional nursing practice council shared governance. Her participation and input into the CMS hospital engagement initiatives has made a positive impact on quality of care metrics. She shares quality metrics data with the nursing staff to illustrate the impact of their work on patient outcomes.

Bachman played a key role in developing the new grad residency program, and designed small group sessions for new graduate nurses, where they discuss patient scenarios and challenge each other to sharpen their critical thinking skills. This program has gained state and regional recognition.

In her nomination letter, the nominator praised Bachman for creating “an environment that encourages professionalism and risk-taking, and an environment that makes people feel really special and able to achieve their highest aspirations.” Shesaid Bachman is a nurse who “lives and works by her core values and high standards, and does not waiver from doing what is right, regardless of what external pressures may arise.”

Bachman says she was surprised and humbled to be nominated by someone she considers her mentor. She was delighted to share the evening with two of her colleagues from Tucson Medical Center: Stephanie Miner, the Rising Star winner, and Sarah Cooper, a finalist for Clinical Nurse Inpatient. “Both are excellent nurses, and inspire me with their passion and enthusiasm for the profession.”

Bachman sees the future of nursing as full of challenges, but she has no hesitation about taking on what is to come. “As healthcare continues to change, I am proud to be a part of a profession that is committed to working through the struggles and making it the best that it can be. That is what nurses do; we get in the middle of tough circumstances, pull resources and teams together and then make it happen.”


Lizabeth L. Gober, RN

Lizabeth L. Gober, RN, BSN, NNP, BC-CHPN, CHPPN,
Pediatric hospice clinical supervisor
University of New Mexico Hospitals, Albuquerque

Lizabeth Gober said her choice of careers was very clear to her, “I was born to be a nurse,” she said. Gober is a certified neonatal nurse practitioner who left inpatient care because she saw the need to develop a pediatric home hospice program at the University of New Mexico Hospital system. Gober studied to achieve certification in Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing, and is the RN supervisor for the only pediatric hospice program in New Mexico. She and her team of seven multidisciplinary members have grown the program from a census of three to four per day to an average daily census of 10 to 12 patients.

Gober’s work in hospice was recognized on a state level when she was awarded the New Mexico Nurse Excellence Award for Home Care and Hospice in 2012-2013.

Gober is passionate about her work, and has a deep understanding of what a family needs when they have a child in hospice care. “Parents often hesitate, but they need to be able to call on the hospice nurse at any hour,” Gober said. “When their child is in pain, that’s an eternity.”

Those experiences inspired Gober’s innovative solution: She parks her RV next to the patient’s home, so the hospice nurse is readily available right outside their door. “I can then rest better knowing I am close and able to provide immediate comfort for the patient and family,” she said. Because end-of-life care takes a toll on staff, the mobile vehicle has the additional benefit of providing hospice nurses with a break by having a place to stay outside the home.

The UNM hospice program has a 60-mile service radius, but since children from outlying regions may benefit from hospice, Gober trains and consults with nursing staff from other local agencies so children can receive care in their home community. She also instituted a program with a toll-free number for care providers who have questions regarding pediatric end-of-life issues and concerns.
Gober said she was thrilled when she found out she was a finalist, and that her family was excited and proud, but not surprised by the recognition. “They have known my dedication to the nursing field for 38 years,” she said. ‘They are very aware of my calling to deal specifically with dying children and their families in New Mexico for the past 14 years.”

“I feel humbled to be caring for this population, and want to thank the patients and their families for all they have taught me,” Gober said when accepting the GEM Award.


Teresa Capriotti, RN

Teresa Lynn Capriotti, RN, BSN
Nursing supervisor II
Scottsdale (Ariz.) Healthcare – Thompson Peak

Capriotti was clear about what was most important to her as she accepted the GEM award as the 2014 Winner in the Patient and Staff Management category. First she thanked her family, her husband Joe, son Blake and her parents and in-laws. All were present and cheered loudly as her name was announced. Then she thanked her team, the 15 staff members who include nurses and radiology technologists who she manages daily as RN supervisor of the interventional lab at the Scottsdale Healthcare.

Finally, she emphasized her pride in the quality outcomes she and her team had achieved. They had 100% success in the national standard of 90 minute door-to-balloon time on all ST elevation myocardial infarction patients. “And our goal is to get it down to 60 minutes. That’s right 6-0,” she said. Under her leadership, the interventional unit also has achieved status as an accredited Chest Pain Center by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

Since Capriotti joined Scottsdale Healthcare, the interventional lab has performed above budget every month, and total procedures have increased from 3,000 plus to over 5,000 per year. In her letter of nomination, nursing colleague credited Capriotti for her “positive and upbeat manner.” She also praised Capriotti’s ability to diffuse and resolve conflicts, her sense of humor and contagious laugh, and her openness, flexibility and creativity.

What Capriotti loves most about nursing is “touching the lives of others and being able to make a difference.” Her greatest satisfaction is being part of a team that is committed to providing the best care possible to their patients. “When we are on call and our pager goes off with a STEMI (ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction) alert, we must move swiftly to save lives. We see the sickest patients turn the corner within minutes and then they always thank us for saving their lives. It makes me feel like an
Earth angel.”

Capriotti is passionate about her role as a member of Scottsdale Healthcare’s Speakers Bureau. She voluntarily contributes her time on a regular basis, speaking at schools and community centers about the early warning signs of heart attacks. “When a heart attack happens, time is muscle,” she said. Because people are often hesitant to call 9-1-1 because symptoms are sometimes vague, her slogan is “when in doubt, call us out,” which she hopes encourages people to call the EMT team and get to the hospital
via ambulance.

Capriotti hopes her commitment to educating the public about MI warning signs will result in people getting to the ER sooner, thereby decreasing complications and deaths from heart attacks.


Justin Dennery, RN

Justin Dennery, RN, BSN
Registered nurse
Mayo Clinic Hospital, Phoenix

Dennery spoke with heartfelt gratitude to his wife as he accepted the 2014 regionalGEM award for Volunteerism and Service. “Without her, I wouldn’t be up here,” he said.

Dennery started his career at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix in 2000, as an ED technologist. He said the decision to go into nursing was a calling. “I love being a nurse because we transcend cultural and physical borders,” he said. “We get to enter into a person’s environment at a very vulnerable time in their lives and provide hope
and healing.”

He works as a staff nurse in the cardiothoracic progressive care unit at MCH, caring for patients with complex diagnoses requiring highly skilled nursing care. His nominator, a nurse manager, called Dennery “a role model for how a passion for helping others and for the nursing profession can translate into expanded, global nursing care.”

After the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, Dennery led a team to the hardest-hit regions to provide medical support. He also conducted first aid training for Thai aid workers at the international relief agency, Food for the Hungry. In 2007, he led a mobile medical outreach program in Kenya and Uganda, treating patients with malnutrition and anthrax exposure. He traveled to Swaziland in 2010 to care for orphans affected by HIV/AIDS. He also traveled to Haiti in 2011, to lead a medical response team after the devastating earthquake, where he managed the cholera treatment program, helped train Haitian staff and oriented medical volunteers from the U.S. and the U.K.

Dennery’s most recent medical mission took him to the Philippines, to meet the needs of people affected by Typhoon Yolanda. For three weeks he provided mobile healthcare assistance to those in remote areas and helped support local hospital staff in the diagnosis and treatment of tropical diseases, including parasitic schistosomiasis.

Rather than focus on the service he has given during his international relief and humanitarian work, Dennery looks at what he has gotten back from this work. “My work overseas has changed my life in so many rewarding ways, and I am indebted to the many I have learned from and who have challenged me to be a better person and a better nurse.”

Dennery said his current goal is to compete the NP program at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix next fall, for the purpose of providing “a higher level of care to those in my community and overseas.”

By | 2021-05-07T08:16:09-04:00 July 14th, 2014|Categories: Nursing Awards|0 Comments

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